What exactly does it mean to be a gourmet? Does watching public television cooking shows on Saturday morning while folding the laundry count? How about being fascinated with Julia Child and having all of her cookbooks on your Amazon wish list? Knowing what zest, garam marsala and charcuterie mean, does this qualify you as being a gourmet? Where did the term come from and what exactly does it mean?
A gourmet is someone with a discriminating palate who is savvy when it comes to fine food and drink. The word comes from the French word groumet which defines a person in charge of the wines at a meal. While this definition is a start, most people think they have a discriminating palate, but discriminating between a Big Mac and a Whopper probably doesn’t count. What exactly are gourmets discriminating about? Who decides what is and isn’t gourmet? From my research, I have come up with three things that qualify a person to call themselves a gourmet. While not an exhaustive list, qualifying in each of these three categories is a good indication that you can call yourself a gourmet.
If you still don’t own a blender because you are saving up for a Waring or refuse to brown your bagels in anything other than a Dualit toaster, you are good in the first category of gourmet, knowing your equipment. Note that I don’t say you need to own this equipment to be a gourmet, just know what it is and have a sincere desire to own it all someday, like when you win the lottery and can actually afford it. A few of the necessities in a gourmet kitchen include a Cuisinart food processor, Emilie Henry bakers, All-Clad pots and pans, Viking range, SubZero built in refrigerator, Kitchenaid mixer, Espressione espresso machine, Wusthof knives, and a Polder thermometer and timer. You will also need to include fine china, silver cutlery and beautiful table linens. Doing some calculations from the Williams Sonoma site (which should be one of your favorite places to shop), a fully equipped gourmet kitchen including service for 8 would come to over $25,000.00 This figure doesn’t even start to cover the many food items you should have.
That brings us to our next category, food. Do you know terms such as foie gras, sevruga, gravlax, fleur de sel, truffles (not the chocolate kind) and herbes de provence? Have you ever eaten any of them? If you can answer yes to most of these, you are a definite gourmet. A good gourmet kitchen will be stocked with the finest wines, caviars, cheeses, produce, meats, breads and pastries. It will also have multitudes of herbs and spices as well as liqueurs and natural extracts. Hundreds of volumes of cookbooks are also a necessity and must include authors such as Jacques Pepin, Simone Beck, James Beard and of course, Julia.
The last area that defines a gourmet is drive. This means wanting to constantly learn more about fine foods and wines. Taking vacations to France and Italy are a start as well as visiting wineries, fish markets and farmers markets everywhere you go. Food should be an obsession, not just a past time. Magazines such as Saveur, Cuisine, Cook’s Illustrated, Fine Cooking, Gourmet and Bon Appetit should dot the landscape of your home. You should also have a strong desire to take cooking classes and cooking vacations and your ultimate dream would be to one day attend “Le Cordon Bleu” cooking school in Paris. Yes, knowing French is a strong plus.
If you can say you qualify in even two of these categories, I would say you are a budding gourmet. Three would mean you are definitely a gourmet. Now that you have qualified yourself as such, don’t hesitate to share it with others. Remember, however, that they may want you to actually cook something for them since they assume all gourmets can cook. This, however, was not one of the qualifying factors, so don’t feel pressured if actually using your gourmet items scares you. Instead invite them to a gourmet restaurant and correct their pronunciations of items on the menu. Knowing the equipment, understanding the names and tastes of the foods and having the desire to cook someday is all you need to be a gourmet. Besides, who has time to cook when you are so busy learning to be a gourmet?
Copyright 2006 Emma Snow